DeSantis Appoints Judge who Denied Abortion to Girl Over School Grades

Controversial rightwing Florida governor Ron DeSantis appointed a judge who was previously outside over a contentious, problematic ruling. 

Jared Smith has now been appointed to the newly established sixth district court of appeal, an appointment which will begin on 1 January 2023. But Smith previously served as a judge on the Hillsborough county court until he was ousted in August for a ruling. 

In January of this year, Smith ruled a 17-year-old teenager was unfit to have an abortion because of her school grades. He questioned her “overall intelligence.” 

According to Florida law, both parental notification and consent are required in order for a minor to receive an abortion. In this teenager’s case, she had asked the court to waive the requirement.

Under Florida’s law, the requirement can be waived if the court finds “by clear and convincing evidence, that the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy”.

Smith cited the teenager’s school grades as a factor in his decision to deny her an abortion. 

“Addressing her ‘overall intelligence’ … the court found her intelligence to be less than average because ‘[w]hile she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony, her GPA is currently 2.0. Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA,’” he said in his ruling.

An appeals court eventually overturned the ruling. 

In August, Smith lost his re-election bid against Nancy Jacobs, a criminal defense and family law attorney from Tampa. DeSantis has decided to put Smith back as a judge. 

The Republican governor’s appointment of Smith comes a week after the Florida state Supreme Court tossed out challenges to the eligibility of six appeals court candidates, including Smith. The challenges argued that the candidates live outside the jurisdiction of the fifth and sixth district Courts of appeals.

DeSantis is a rising star in the Republican party, especially after his strong performance in November’s midterm elections, which was in stark contrast to the Republican party showing overall. He has emerged as a powerful rival to Donald Trump and is widely expected to challenge the former US president in the Republican 2024 presidential nomination race.

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